Blossoming gay scene in Gloucester as attitudes change
ATTITUDES towards Gloucester's lesbian and gay community have changed dramatically over the last decade, leading to a blossoming city club scene.
The Westgate is Gloucester's only exclusive gay venue.
A sea change in attitudes has led to one of Gloucester's evening economy success stories.
Like-minded people are now taking advantage of a safe environment to socialise – and The Westgate is cashing-in.
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Manager Chris Marsh said the change is helping the pub flourish.
"There is nothing else quite like us in Gloucester, and because of that we are doing really well," he said.
"Gloucester used to be an intimidating place for gay people to go out at night, but not anymore.
"Around 40 per cent of our customers are straight, and it is just a good night out here. We have an excellent relationship with the police and they have helped make people feel safer.
"When they are on patrol they stop and pop in. It is reassuring to know they are there and helping to make sure everyone stays safe and has a good time.
"But Westgate Street on the whole needs more investment as there are still empty shops that could be used. We get students in here, tourists visiting the Cathedral and it is also pretty busy on rugby match days."
Sid Kostomin, deputy manager at Liquid nightclub, said just 10 years ago gay pubs would have regularly had their windows smashed.
"There was once a perception that Gloucester was not safe," he said. "A gay venue used to be a bit of a novelty but that has changed."
Robin Agascar, chairs the Gloucester and Forest Hate Crime Group. "Before, lesbian and gay pubs would be tucked away down back-streets, but to have somewhere like The Westgate in such a prominent place shows how far we have come.
"There was always one or two in Cheltenham but none in Gloucester, that situation is now reversed. Police attitudes have also changed for the better. Twenty years ago, people accepted if they were on a gay-night out they could get attacked and felt that was their lot. Now, the police are more willing to step-in and that has helped people to report hate-crime.
"It has been a battle for people to have the confidence to report any issues to police, but things are improving."
For more information on Gay Glos call 01452 306800 or visit www.gay-glos.org.
For the hate crime report it helpline call 0800 077 8460.